“Sere from the Green” Chapter Two Commentary

WARNING!  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

Also, it will make way more sense if you’ve already read the novel.  And I use a lot of salty language (because I swear like a fucking lady!).

Sere from the Green [front cover]

 

I’m an obsessive plotter.  I have a whole outline for my series and from there I create outlines for novels.  Once I’ve completed a basic novel outline, I’ll outline each individual chapter before I start actually writing the chapter.  This is how I’ve always written, but that doesn’t mean the outline is set in stone.  I will sometimes switch things around to make the plot flow better or to better capture what I’m trying to do with a scene.  Sometimes I’ll edit out scenes if they’re interrupting the narrative or just not reading right.

So chapter two was originally chapter one in the first few drafts.  The first two chapters are the ones that look entirely different from what they were when first committed to paper.  Re-reading this novel, I’m really struck by how wordy it is.  My former writing mentor had a thing for very descriptive novels.  Book One is probably my most descriptive novel and I relied on descriptors more than perhaps I should have.  This particular chapter was always my former mentor’s favorite.  I have mixed feelings on it:  I like the characters introduced in it, but can definitely see places that could be trimmed down a bit.  I’ve always been a more character-focused sort of writer.

A lot of people tend to associate the fantasy genre with sword and sorcery, medieval settings.  I find history fascinating, much more interesting than most fiction.  I’m not as comfortable writing historical settings (though I’ll probably have to write a flashback or something along those lines at some point).  The only medieval-type fantasies I’ve ever enjoyed was the works of Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander.  I find modern medieval fantasies to be rather dull.  I prefer sticking to modern and urban fantasy.  I find it easier to relate to the characters.

Pages 18 – 19

God, this book was written when there were still payphones around.  I feel so old.  It’s such a dated reference.  I’m actually cracking up thinking about readers who are going to have to look up that reference.  Dear god, that’s embarrassing.

Jet, the man who often seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, is officially introduced.  Jet is probably the character I most often want to hug.  He’s still relatively young by shape shifter standards.  And when he’s introduced, he has massively fucked up.  There’s an interesting parallel between his introduction and Isis’ in the previous chapter:  they’re both alone.  Both these characters have felt like outsiders at some point in their lives.  Jet has never been (nor wanted to be) as isolated as Isis.  But he has done some things that are peculiar to other shape shifters.


Some tidbits about shape shifters

*Only the leaders of the different groups (except for the rebels) tend to marry.  Shape shifters see the institution of marriage to be archaic.  They don’t really fixate or define orientations and relationships.  Even if leaders do take spouses, both tend to have other lovers and have their own private lives.  Only a small minority of shape shifters are monogamous, Jet being one of them.  This has raised a few eyebrows among shape shifters.

*There is no such thing as cheating in relationships in shape shifter culture.  This is one of the few things about humans that completely baffles shape shifters (they are extremely puzzled by drama).

*They don’t really have traditional families per say.  Adoption is extremely common among shape shifters and adopted children have the same status as biological children.  Genetics is nowhere near as important to shape shifters as it is to humans.


Remington raised Jet as his own.  Jet’s father was killed fairly early in Jet’s life.  Remington has been around for quite some time and has always been loyal to the Monroe family.  That’s why he seems telepathic to Jet:  Remington has known him all his life.

Page 20

Jet has a flashback when he hears the mop in the water and then sloshing about on the floor.  I’ve found that after traumas and tragedies, the weirdest things can trigger flashbacks.  For example, after being assaulted in a haunted manor, I found that smoke machines could trigger intense panic attacks.  The room I was attacked in didn’t have a smoke machine, but the neighboring room did and I remember seeing the foggy mist when I would leave my room.

When I was working on my series, one of the things I was interested in was the aftermath of violence.  Violence isn’t something you just forget.  It leaves a mark.  Though the memories become less painful and intense, even fade, over time, the effects of it linger.  It’s not something to be taken lightly or brushed off.

In this scene, Jet thinks he just sent three women to their deaths.  He was close to them, worked with them, and they trusted him.  This is traumatic for him, but he can’t break down.  Grieving is sometimes a luxury.

I wrote that immortals have an instinctive dislike of death, enough that they try to avoid jobs that would require constant contact with it.  Shape shifters have safe zones:  places where at least one person on the premises knows about shape shifters (hospitals, police stations, schools, etc.).  However, no shape shifter will work in a morgue.  Shape shifters have different blood than humans, so they have to make sure the wrong people don’t get a hold of it.  Humans don’t know about shape shifters and they want to keep it that way.

The first shift.  I’ve had a few people question the shape shifters’ clothing.  This is a species that has been around probably longer than homo sapiens.  They have special clothing.  Suspend disbelief, use your imagination 😀

Page 21

I have a few giant spirals filled with character outlines (potential, upcoming, and current) and I have my “Big Book of Guardians” (which is basically a dictionary of guardians).  Out of all of them, Sly is one of my all-time favorite characters.  The mysterious femme fatale, an unapologetic badass who gives zero fucks.  She’s not a hero or a villain, neither protagonist or antagonist.  She’s an anti-hero.

Page 22

Sly is very accustomed to violence.  There is nothing Jet can do to threaten her, even if he wanted to.  Protectors are very moral and things like torture never even enter the equation when questioning someone.  Sly is the kind of person who will take you out before you have a chance to raise a hand to her.  She doesn’t threaten, she warns.  I really liked this scene with Jet because Sly isn’t being cruel or entirely antagonizing.  She’s toying with him, but there’s a very strange playfulness to her taunting.  Also,  Sly demands respect.  She will not tolerate being shouted at or accused of things she didn’t do.

Sly was always written as disliking humans immensely, but still sees some purpose in their existence.  She would never subscribe to the separatist point of view.  Sly has always refused to ally with any of the shape shifter groups:  protector, rebel, assassins, thieves, seducers, or vigilantes.  Rather, she borrows from their assorted philosophies when she needs to and ignores whatever doesn’t work for her.

Page 23

Sly doesn’t give answers for free and is uninterested in currency.  Throughout the series, she barters for information.  There’s a reason behind almost everything she does, even if only she knows what it is.  Yeah, this character is one of the most fun to write.

I tried to write this pseudo-interrogation scene in a variety of ways and one of the things I experimented with a lot was physicality.  In one version, this was a very physical confrontation between these two characters.  What I found was that less is more.  Sly is an unflappable character, one who won’t tolerate disrespect, and Jet is a leader who knows how to keep his cool, even when dealing with a difficult individual.

Page 24

Sly has a lot of valuable information, which she has collected over the years.  She has survived in part due to her ability to learn secrets.  There’s a lot of violence in this woman’s past and she is a very morally gray character.  There are things she’s willing to do that protectors would find reprehensible.

Sly the realist:  This character is the epitome of a realist.  She has seen a lot of death in her life and is desensitized to it.  Sly accepts that tragedy is unavoidable.  She helps Jet when it’s in her best interest, but that doesn’t mean she’ll go out of her way or risk her safety to protect him or those close to him.  Sly is not an ally to the protectors.  She merely helps them out every now and again.

Page 25

Sly is a skeptic and doesn’t believe things unless there’s solid proof.  Prophecies are for simpletons in her opinion.  She has never believed in them and thinks people make their own fates and destinies.  Also, the only guardians Sly respects are Passion and Adonia.  I’ve always written Sly as being attracted to strong women.  She finds men to be rather tiresome.

I wrote there being some conflict between the shape shifters and guardians.  It has always amused me how completely dysfunctional deities were in many ancient mythologies.  Life is messy and so are the gods.  The guardians think of themselves as mostly infallible, but in reality they’re almost a bureaucratic nightmare and value tradition over progress.

Sly is a shape shifter who is completely unimpressed with the guardians.  She finds them to be quite tiring.  One of these days, I have to write something about just Sly.  She’s such a fun character.

It’s important to remember the guardians don’t want to be worshiped and don’t think of themselves as gods.  Though I was interested in creating a mythology, the guardians were never intended to be gods.  They have similar powers, traits, and functions (a few even share the same names as deities), but they aren’t gods.  This isn’t to say that some guardians don’t have massive egos, but they don’t believe they’re gods.

I’ve had a couple people ask me if Jet and Sly ever slept together, which always makes me laugh.  No, they never did (Sly prefers women and Jet is monogamous).  Reading this novel again, they do have an interesting chemistry.

I always pictured Sly as being in complete control of whatever situation she’s in (or at least projecting that).  She comes and goes as she chooses.

Those who have already read this novel (and the others) know that Jade and Sly are lovers.  Sly doesn’t visibly show concern about Jade in this scene, which is just keeping in line with who she is.  While she doesn’t always care for the guardians, Sly knows they are good healers.  Jade works closely with them, is loyal to them, and therefore will be cared for them should she ever be hurt.  Plus, Sly knows how dangerous the lives of protectors are.  Jade has been in her fair share of scrapes in the past and Sly understands that’s part of her job.

Page 26

Passion!  Another character who I absolutely love and love writing.  Passion, the guardian who watches over what she’s named for, is one of the strongest women in the series (which is saying something when you think about how many women populate this series).  Even though Passion embraces her own sexuality, not all passion is about sex.  One can be passionate about just about anything (Passion herself has always had a soft spot for artists).  I recently pointed out to a friend that Passion is the only guardian in the series who dyes her hair.  Guardians are all about the natural.  However, bodily autonomy and independence is more important to Passion.  She is, and always has been, her own person.  Most guardian men look down on her, but Passion has never cared.

When she’s introduced, Passion is just toeing the line of breaking a guardian law:  she’s on Earth, without permission and without an assigned protector escort.  As the reader discovers, Passion is a capable fighter.  I have a whole back story in my mind (which, unfortunately, I couldn’t really fit in here) about how she was bullied in her youth.  Many old-fashioned guardians still fault her for what they see as promiscuity.  Being bullied led to her learning how to fight, verbally and physically.

Scenes with Jet and Passion are some of the most fun to write.  Personality-wise, they’re quite different:  Jet’s more quiet and introverted while Passion is colorful and extroverted.  Passion has never had many friends among the guardians (though many of the younger ones now look up to her).  Before she became a mother, I picture Passion as a somewhat lonely character and I think that’s why she is so close with Jet, who was also a bit of a lonely soul.

Because she’s the guardian of passion, her emotions are a little more intense than most other guardians.  This doesn’t mean Passion is hysterical or overly emotional.  Her emotions can sometimes physically effect her surroundings or even manifest, such as her eyes turning red when angry or occasionally blue when sad.  The heightened emotions were extremely difficult to write because though I’ve always thought emotions were a kind of strength, society in general views them as a weakness (and even genders them as feminine).  It’s really difficult to write something that has a bias like that.

Page 27 – 28

I often get annoyed when I’m reading a novel, fantasy or otherwise, and a male protagonist admires a woman solely for her beauty.  More often than not, this leads to the woman being completely infantalized or objectified or both.  Jet admires and respects Passion for her strength and individuality.  Her counsel is valuable to him.

Protectors lead extremely dangerous lives and therefore have an incredibly short life expectancy (probably similar to humans).  They know from a very early age that they will probably meet a violent end.  It’s a dangerous world and protectors are meant to protect humans, guardians, and sometimes even other shape shifters.  Passion knows this and it’s a huge part of why she doesn’t want Jet to bring Isis into that world.

Page 29

The mansion was written as having a sense of history to it (almost like a castle would).  Jet is constantly reminded of his heritage.  The only place where there isn’t any kind of reminders of this lofty past is in his bedroom.  That’s his one safe haven where he doesn’t have to think only of his duties as a leader.

Page 30 – 32

I have two different version of the legend of Selene, the infamous night guardian:  the guardian and shape shifter myth and the actual story.  I’ve always been fascinated by how stories can change and evolve over time (sometimes due to different translations, sometimes because of who’s telling the story).  Most of the stories and myths in my series have multiple versions.  Which is so, so fun to keep track of 😉

Jade’s introduction:  the description could have been a lot better.  I know what I was trying to get across, but it doesn’t seem to translate the way I’d hoped it would.  Unfortunately.  I do like that she is able to get the drop on Jet.  If I ever re-release this novel, that part is going to remain unchanged.

This was another scene that was originally more emotional, but I changed it because it wasn’t working.  In the original scene, Jade had a gun and was a lot angrier.  I’ve found that scenes don’t flow as smoothly when the emotion is heightened too much (it’s way too easy to stray into melodrama).  Plus, it completely went against Jade’s character.  She’s an older character and one who would be able to remain cool under pressure and stress.

Jet’s a respected leader and a good one, but he does have his moments of self-doubt (as I think any good leader does).  He’s not arrogant in any sense of the word and will freely admit when he fucks up.  Jade has always been loyal to him and she trusts him.  Part of this loyalty is because he’s willing to own up to his mistakes.  Not all shape shifters have this quality.

One of these days (there’s a phrase I use a lot), I’m going to have to compile all the notes for this series and create appendices.  I have a really beautiful back story about Jet and Lilly (I have a whole file just about them, about 150+ pages).  My brother enjoys ragging on the Lilly character, who is probably my quietest character.  I’ve always seen her as a very important character though.  To me, I always pictured Lilly as pure love.  There’s not an ounce of hatred in this character, only compassion and understanding.

Guardians giving up their titles and statuses is explored more as the series progresses (another of my favorite characters a guardian man who gave up his title and status for love of a couple humans).  Lilly is the only former guardian who can return to the Meadows because she is the co-leader of the protectors (shape shifter leaders who marry tend to share leadership with their spouse).

This is one of the only times in the series that I wrote two chapters happening at roughly the same time but through different character’s POVs.  I was experimenting with narrative structure and figuring out which one worked best for me.  I did another POV switch-up in book three, where I divided the story between two groups of characters.  As a writer, sometimes it’s fun to play with different narrative tools and structures.  Also, I think for this book in particular, readers liked wondering how these two characters were going to cross paths.

So ends the commentary on chapter two.  Hopefully people are finding this an interesting exercise.  It’s quite odd reading this novel again since I know where these characters are headed and what’s going to happen.  I definitely grew with these characters (very few of them are static). 

Comments and questions are welcome.  Spam is not. 

Until next time!

 

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About Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski, an author from Illinois, has been an avid reader and a genre feminist for most of her life. She holds a degree in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. In 2015, she founded “Asexual Artists,” a Tumblr and WordPress site dedicated to highlighting the contributions of asexual identifying individuals to the arts. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys reading (particularly anything relating to ancient myths) or playing with her pets. She participates in activism for asexual visibility and feminist causes. She enjoys speaking about genre feminism, a topic she is quite passionate about, and hopes to bring more strong heroines to literature, including badass asexual women. Her debut novel was "Sere from the Green," the first volume in her ongoing series "The Shape Shifter Chronicles." The sequels, "Through Storm and Night," "From the Ashes," and "Haunted by the Keres" are also available. All books can be purchased through Amazon, CreateSpace, or Smashwords.
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